Europe’s COVID-19 death toll tops 250,000

FRANCE: European nations have ratcheted up restrictions on daily life to tackle soaring infections, with a 44 percent increase in cases this week.

Nighttime curfews on millions came into force in France this weekend and Switzerland required all its citizens to wear masks in indoor public places.

But Israel has managed to flatten its outbreak through draconian measures including a ban on travelling more than a kilometre from home. In Australia, Melbourne has managed to control its upsurge in cases and officials were able to allow the city's five million inhabitants to leave their homes for more than two hours a day for the first time in three months. In Europe however, the increase in cases is reaching alarming levels.

Europe's death toll makes it the second-hardest hit region after Latin America and the Caribbean, where fatalities have surpassed 350,000. South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has tested positive for coronavirus, adding to over 700,000 cases registered in the country. He is the fifth member of the government to contract COVID-19. South Africa accounts for around 43 percent of the virus cases on the African continent.

Meanwhile, a new study in Japan has found that the coronavirus remains active on human skin for nine hours. In comparison, the pathogen that causes the flu survives on human skin for about 1.8 hours, according to the study published this month in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal.

The United Kingdom remains Europe's worst-affected country in terms of deaths, accounting for almost one-fifth of fatalities on the continent.

France counted nearly 30,000 new cases Sunday, close to Saturday's record 32,427 cases. Some 1,900 COVID-19 patients are currently occupying intensive care unit beds, out of France's total capacity of 5,800.

The Swiss government said Sunday it would enforce mask-wearing in all indoor public spaces from Monday and forbid gatherings of more than 15 people, among other restrictions.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday announced a series of new measures to tackle the rising number of virus cases.Two weeks ago, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had declared her country had beaten the virus again -- but a new community case of COVID-19 has now been confirmed, punching a hole in her assertion. - AFP

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